PORT ANGELES — The Coast Guard cutter Active will return to Port Angeles on Tuesday after seizing over 2,000 pounds of cocaine worth about $37 million from suspected drug smugglers and undergoing quarantine while the entire crew was tested for COVID-19.
All were found to be healthy and have continued to wear cloth masks and practice strict sanitation and safety measures on their voyage home, the Coast Guard said Friday, adding that they will keep up the self-monitoring upon return to Port Angeles.
The Coast Guard said it will continue to work closely with the Clallam County Department of Health.
During a 47-day counter-narcotic patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, one of three suspected drug smugglers detained May 12 about 200 nautical miles off the coast of El Salvador showed signs of mild illness. His fever and sore throat were treated by the onboard health services technician and all three were isolated as a precaution, the Coast Guard said.
The detainees remained outside on the weather decks of the cutter, protected under an awning, and all detainees wore surgical masks. Any crew members who interacted with them used personal protective equipment (PPE) including N95 masks, nitrile gloves, long sleeves and goggles, the Coast Guard said.
Before they entered the inside of the ship, they disposed of PPE.
The detainees were transferred to Department of Justice custody in San Diego on May 20. All tested positive for COVID-19. The detainees were admitted to a local hospital for care and monitoring and remain in custody, the Coast Guard said.
Once the detainees were transferred, all of the cutter’s weather decks were disinfected and sanitized. The crew of the Active were all tested for COVID-19, and all tests were negative.
All crew members remain asymptomatic, the Coast Guard said.
“Special thanks to the U.S. Navy’s mobile medical unit from Balboa that tested my crew yesterday morning in San Diego, and returned our results before dinner time,” said Cmdr. James O’Mara, commanding officer of Active, in a press release issued late Friday.
“That quick turnaround was a profound statement of interagency support, and directly informed our operational planning.
“Onboard Active we are not letting our guard down,” he said. “We’ll keep spacing and sanitizing on our voyage home to reunite with our families.”
The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in these counter-drug operations.
“This patrol, and this interdiction in particular, highlights the resilience and professionalism of Active’s crew,” O’Mara said.
“We canceled a port visit, stretched logistics, and diverted 500 miles to get on target and do our job.
“No captain could ask or expect more from a crew, especially given all the adversity overcome during this patrol. Though I know if more were required, this crew would rally and answer the call, the way they always do.”